Director X’ SUPERFLY (2018) is not nearly as toothless as Samuel L. Jackson’s 2000 sequel to SHAFT, but this updated look at a true ‘Blaxploitation’ classic also lacks the weight of the far superior original.
21-year-old singer/actor Trevor Jackson (grown-ish) has the unenviable task of filling Ron O’Neal’s shoes as lead character Youngblood Priest; a well-respected drug dealer who is trying to put together one last score in order to escape his life of crime. Without question, Jackson is way too young to play a seasoned criminal – O’Neal, by comparison, was 34 when SUPER FLY (1972) was released – and the remake suffers from a strong lack of believability. Of course, it doesn’t help matters that pretty boy Priest is also a magical martial artist who can dodge bullets fired at near-point blank range.
To be fair, Gordon Parks, Jr.’s original film is beloved more for its legendary Curtis Mayfield soundtrack than anything else, so the idea of a remake isn’t entirely sacrilegious (or even a bad idea). The new version makes some minor tweaks (Atlanta supplants Harlem, Priest is now in a relationship with two women, and there is a plot development that makes this feel more like a SCARFACE remake), but there just isn’t enough going on to make SUPERFLY seem inspired. As for the music, rapper Future’s underwhelming attempt at replicating Mayfield’s soundtrack success is hammered home the second the iconic “Pusherman” begins playing.
SUPERFLY’s true crime, however, is that it is incredibly misogynistic while glorifying ugly racial and ethnic stereotypes. Considering Director X’ music video background, it may not be surprising to see a finished product that borrows heavily from the ‘pimps and hoes’ rap videos of the late ’90s. The quick turnaround of the project (filming began this past January, and ended in March) is both impressive and quite telling — this is a completely soulless venture that lacks the context of the original by failing to establish any semblance of social relevance (outside of a lazy ‘white cops are evil’ subplot).
Amazing, even with a padded near-two hour run time, SUPERFLY’s BET movie-of-the-week ending is rushed and wrapped up way too neatly. However, that almost feels like an act of mercy.
One and a Half out of Five Beers.